This past weekend, the Mr. and I were discussing how we frequently see the Boston police performing activities we normally wouldn’t expect. For example, there often is a police presence around the crews working on the utilities. I’m sure it is for the safety of the crew (Boston is notorious for bad drivers) but it seems odd to me as I have never seen this in any other city I have lived in.
Anyhow, this conversation about the police prompted memories about a certain security-related incident that happened in Kenya. More specifically a security “oopsy” where ZaZu, the mischievous Bengal cat that you hear about in many of my posts, took center stage.
But before I get into another one of ZaZu’s escapades, I first want to give you a little background on my housing situation in Kenya as it will help frame said security incident. It will also help satisfy your curiosity as I find one of the first questions people often ask me about living in Kenya is:
“What was your house like?”
Seriously? I lived in this exotic far off land, and this is what you are most curious about?
I think most people who ask this question have visions of the Mr and I living in a hut constructed of sunbaked dung with goats, chickens and donkeys grazing in the surrounding bush and our loin clothes strewn across red hued rocks as they dry in the hot, African sun (see the caricature that our co-workers in Ohio wished us bon voyage with as evidence of this). Of course the rhino we ride to work everyday is parked out front.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with living in a good, solid hut. I certainly stayed in my fair share of huts in Africa during volunteer excursions and they were quite comfortable; however, during my three year assignment in Nairobi, I lived in what would be deemed a “normal” house by Western standards. Did you see the quotes around normal? That’s because the house had modern, developed world comforts but with Alcatraz sensibilities.
The house was built into a hill with sweeping views of the Karura forest. It had floor to ceiling glass walls that capitalized on these views. The kitchen was modern with European appliances and the floors were cloaked with marble or dark rich hardwood. Sounds normal, right? Here’s where it becomes a little more exotic, so to speak.
The house was in a gated compound which meant it was surrounded by a tall stone wall topped with electric and barbed wire fencing. The compound was manned by security guards 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In our particular compound, we had 4 security guards available at all times plus a highly trained, vicious security dog that “tolerated” it’s handler. To get into the compound, you had to pass through this security. Sound safe? Entry into your compound was the moment when you were the most vulnerable to carjackings. Car jackings are a frequent occurrence in Nairobi, so frequent that many people stow a carjacking envelope filled with shillings in their car as a precautionary measure. After all, it’s better to hand over an envelope full of money versus getting robbed and stuffed into the boot for an unforeseen number of hours.
The inside of the house had loads of security features. Just like many of the homes in the U.S., it was equipped with a home alarm. But it didn’t stop there. It also had metal bars on the windows (another Alcatraz feature). Fortunately, the bars in our house were designed to look like plantation shutters so they had more of an upscale prison cell feel. There was also a panic button in each and every room. If trouble ever arose, simply push the button and the security team stationed at the end of your street would quickly rush to your house. It’s sort of like hitting a button that magically cues Clark Kent to bolt into a phone booth and emerge as a crimefighting superhero.
And last, but certainly not least, we had a panic room on our lower level. Yes, you read that right. We had a panic room specially designed so that you could lock yourself up like a caged animal and isolate yourself from the rest of the house if the need or desire struck. Fortunately I never had a need for the panic room but I am aware of others who made good use of theirs.
One morning the Mr and I were in the kitchen enjoying our cup of tea and coffee before heading off to work. Our kitties, being social butterflies, were in the kitchen with us. Unfortunately, ZaZu had an incurable habit of jumping up on top of the countertops. I guess it was his way of being closer to the family. You should also know that when ZaZu was on the countertop it put him at the same level as one of the panic buttons in the kitchen. You see where this is going?
So, I was enjoying my last sip of tea when I heard a VERY aggressive pounding on the door.
“That’s strange. We aren’t expecting any guests. How would they have gotten past security?”, I thought to myself.
Puzzled, the Mr. went and opened the door. Do you know what he saw? Ten security guards dressed to the nines in full riot gear.
“Is there a problem?” the head of security asked as the Mr. stood there with his mouth open and a cup of coffee in hand.
“No, no problems” replied the Mr.
Apparently the panic button had been pressed. I’ll give you one guess as to who pressed it. . .not intentionally, of course. You know how cats like to rub their cheeks up against things? Yeeeaaaah. . .It turns out ZaZu had rubbed his cheek up against the panic button which in turn had caused the silent alarm and a big red flashing light outside our house to go off. Good to know the button actually works.
Let’s just say that from that point forward it was normal for us to surround the panic button above the kitchen counter with a caseload of wine bottles.
In honor of all those fond, and sometimes interesting memories made in Nairobi, I am bringing you this Zucchini and Ricotta Galette. I think it is pretty obvious that this is not a Kenyan dish but it does remind me of the Spring-like weather that Nairobi enjoys year round.
I don’t know about you but I feel that galettes always add an air of rustic elegance to any meal and would be perfect for your Mother’s Day brunch. If you have never made a galette, I can assure you it is very easy. To prove this, Food52 just featured a how to video. You can find this video HERE.
FOR THE CRUST: Ingredients: Directions: FOR THE FILLING: Ingredients: Directions:
Rustic Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
FOR THE CRUST:
FOR THE FILLING:
I hope you enjoyed some of the photos I took in Nairobi. I will be sharing more photos from Africa in future posts. Stay tuned.